Benachin: The exclusive dish of Western Africa
Benachin, otherwise known as Jollof Rice amongst its variety of names, is a dish popular in many West African countries. Most of its history is attributed to the Empire of Mali (although some attribute it to Senegal also). The Djula tribe dispelled into various urban and commercial centers and took with them the religion of Islam, rice agronomy, small-scale marketing, and other forms of trade.
This led to the widespread acceptance of their food, culture, and way of life, enabling the dish to gain its popularity in countries like Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali, Togo, Côte d’Ivore and others. The most interesting part about the dish is that, when cooking, it has to burn, even if it’s just a little. This is because the burning gives it the exact and desired taste and a party feel to it.
Benachin can be taken with Chicken, Beef, Plantain, Egg, Fish or Snails, in any form you want, be it: grilled/fried/baked/roasted.
In recent times, there’s been a rivalry amongst these countries, especially between Nigeria and Ghana, as to which cooks the best version of this dish. This has become an internet sensation over the years and has even led to some form of rivalry.
Basically, the main ingredients of this Benachin dish include:
- Rice – preferably long grain;
- Tomatoes and pepper (red bell, scotch bonnet, chilli);
- Tomato paste purée;
- Meat/chicken/goat stock and/or seasoning;
- Dried thyme leaves and bay leaves;
- Curry powder, Salt;
- Onions, ginger and garlic;
- Vegetable Oil.
Other optional ingredients include Rosemary powder, white pepper powder, Paprika. Also, Carrots, Onions, Green bell peppers, Runner beans, Butter, can be used as garnishings.
Preparation of Benachin and Oven Baked Chicken
Ingredients for the chicken (for regular cooking) are:
- 5-10 pieces of any chicken part, preferably chicken breast/laps;
- Olive oil;
- Chicken flavored seasoning;
- Seasoned pepper;
- Parsley flakes;
- Dried Oregano;
- Onion Powder;
- Garlic Powder;
- Dried Thyme;
- Black pepper.
- Arrange chicken parts into a bowl, leaving a circular opening in the middle;
- Pour sufficient amount of olive oil in the opening;
- Add all ingredients listed above, into the oil, one after the other;
- Mix the ingredients and oil together and then marinate with the chicken parts;
- Place the chicken parts into a skillet, making the chicken skin side down. This is to get the skin crispy;
- Set your oven to about 400-425 degrees and bake for at least 45 mins. Don’t forget to turn it over;
- Set aside from the oven when it’s baked and your chicken is ready to serve.
Steps to prepare Benachin the Nigerian way
Ingredients for Benachin are the same as listed above. For regular cooking:
- Place a pan or pot on the gas and heat up. Pour a sufficient amount of vegetable oil and allow to heat up for at least 30 seconds;
- Pour in your chopped onions and fry;
- Add fresh diced or grated ginger and garlic, otherwise, ginger and garlic powder will do;
- Add in your dried thyme, curry powder, salt, rosemary, white pepper, chicken or beef seasoning and stir continuously;
- Scoop in your tomato paste purée and keep stirring until the paste begins to separate from the oil;
- Pour in your blended tomato and pepper and continue stirring until you achieve a properly fried consistency;
- Pour in your chicken/beef/goat stock if there is any available;
- Add your desired quantity of washed rice into the mixture and stir properly. Stirring at this stage will definitely make it burn later, thereby you can acquire that exact flavor which Benachin is known for;
- Put in the bay leaves;
- Add in water that is just enough to cover the rice;
- Cook at very medium/low heat. This is to ensure that the rice is properly cooked – not hard nor mushy soft;
- When the water dries up, stir and take off the heat;
- Garnish and cover up to steam for some minutes;
Your Benachin is ready to be served with the Oven Baked Chicken. Remember that you can have Benachin with just about anything that is grilled, roasted, baked or fried. You can serve with fruit juices, soft drinks or even just water. Having a plate of this delicious West African delicacy is sure to enrich your body with a balanced diet.
(Written by Zainab Sulaimon)